Salamander Resort spa director Penny Kriel has an enviable problem: weekends are sold out.
Since opening five years ago in Middleburg, Virginia, Salamander Spa has been booked by girlfriend getaways and weddings almost every weekend. So spa appointments are limited to resort residents Friday to Sunday, with special rates for locals the rest of the week.
With just 20 percent of spa bookings by men, Salamander offers options that focus on restorative energy. Pain management for horseback riders and desk jockeys; muscle toning and stress management sell to corporate executives attending retreats at the resort.
Men’s treatments range from a beard trim to well-being massage (the latter 80 minutes, $240 plus gratuity). In the hands of massage therapist Jamie Lewis this was a synergistic symphony. Sniffing samples of 14 essential oils blended by master mixer Michael Scholes at Virginia-based Laboratory of Flowers, combinations included specific species of basil, marjoram, peppermint, oregano, thyme, ginger, and chamomile. Opting for a boost of energy, Jamie sprinkled muscle easing oil along my back and shoulders, restorative synergy oil along the spine, then worked on my stomach. Salamander Signature, an exclusive blend of Virginia cedar, tobacco, and other oils that best represent the scenography of Virginia, completed the 80-minute experience.
Opting for a boost of energy, Jamie sprinkled muscle easing oil along my back and shoulders, restorative synergy oil along the spine, then worked on my stomach…
Jamie’s distinctive touch mixed classical Swedish movements with trigger point precision. On my arms and legs, she used oils to stimulate the lymphatic system. The result was both stimulating and relaxing, with a bonus of reducing congestion and coughing. These essential oils are absorbed by the skin and through the olfactory system where they calm the nervous system, balance hormones, and restore vitality—perfect antidote for any man, says Scholes.
Relaxing in the spacious steam room, I let the oils soak into my skin, and decided to skip a shower.
The Salamander Spa men’s wing resembles a private club, Leather benches in the locker room, shaving alcove, and big whirlpool. If you require privacy when changing, a large room and shower is available. Heated stone lounges beckon but were not designed for people with circulatory problems. The fitness center and co-ed sauna are downstairs, and on warm days, the outdoor swimming pool.
Turning off your mobile is simple spa etiquette, and makes the spa a safe haven from technology.
Hang out in the lounge, order lunch, or nap. Wearing shorts or swimsuit is optional.
Harvest season is resplendent at Salamander. Amid rolling farmland and vineyards in Virginia’s historic horse country, Middleburg retains the look of a small town (there’s only one traffic light) an hour’s drive from Washington, DC. Sample the fare at pubs along Washington Street, and shop at the Salamander boutique for cheese, breads, wine, and gifts.
Salamander brought a new level of luxury to Middleburg. Now horseback rides and yoga on horseback, a zip-line trip through the treetops, and culinary classes are offered. Harriman’s restaurant features farm-to-table cuisine complemented by Virginia wines. Who said spas are mostly for women?
Health challenges led spa historian Bernard Burt to Canyon Ranch in Arizona, inspiring his 1986 book "Fodor's Healthy Escapes" for Random House. The co-author of "100 Best Spas of the World" (Globe Pequot), his byline has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Health, Spa Management Journal, and on Examiner.com. Based in Washington, DC, Burt is chairman emeritus of the Washington Spa Alliance and founding director of the International Spa Association.